Orchestral Manoeuvres in Belfast
When the looseness of rock and roll meets the discipline of an orchestra, there will always be a few casualties. And so when the two camps combine in Belfast to rehearse a gala event for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, it wasn't completely easy. A few people even worried that it couldn't be done.
So there are nervous people at the opening night, wondering if the premise can hold. Julie Feeney leads the way with a self-arranged song cycle, based on her '13 Songs' album. As ever, she delivers songs about love on the rack, distressed and distorted. The music is also edgy and this informed classical scholar resists the temptation to put fluffy strings on everything. 'Wasted' is very intense and a relatively new song, 'Plastic People' rules the place.
Foy Vance has yet to release an album, but he's received tonight like an old pal. He bookends his show with 'Gabriel And the Vagabond', which ascends all the way, and 'Indiscriminate Act Of Kindness', lashed with spirituality and Andrew Skeet's generous arrangements. Foy is evidently a hit.
Duke Special and his mates amble out, dressed in military regalia, straight out of Pepperland. The Beatles connection will resonate across his set, notably the crescendo to 'Last Night I Nearly Died' which resounds like the close of 'Day In The Life'. He even has a sweet overture to set out the themes while conductor David Brophy is throwing shapes and animating the sounds to the max.
The eastern European element of 'Brixton Leaves' has been amplified and 'Wake Up Scarlett' is a tremendous splatter of cymbals and kettle drums. There are a few moments when the two camps struggle to find an accord and 'Portrait' is strained but rhythm supremo Chip Bailey gets his ultimate stamp on 'I Let You Down'.
They sign off with 'Freewheel' as the Duke declares his decision to keep moving, to follow his emotions and his creative impulses. Tonight, we heartily agree. There's nothing you can do that can't be done...